Computer Crime Research Center


U.K. police unprepared for security "arms race"

Date: February 15, 2008
By: Nick Heath

A former U.S. intelligence tech specialist has warned of the need for a dedicated cybercrime task force in the United Kingdom.

Bret Hartman, CTO at security company RSA and former IT specialist with the National Security Agency, described the battle between authorities and the online fraudsters, terrorists and other cyber criminals as an "arms race".

He told law enforcement has to "stay one step ahead" of its "adversaries" and needs to "be armed with the right technologies and understanding".

The United Kingdom used to have a dedicated police e-crime fighting body--called the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU)--but this was rolled into the Serious Organized Crime Agency (Soca) in April 2006.

An e-petition calling for the return of a dedicated unit was set up in the wake of the spate of government data breaches, which began with the loss of 25 million child benefit records by the United Kingdom's HM Revenue &Customs.

Hartman said that with online scams worth billions of dollars and growth of state-sponsored hacking of corporate and national infrastructure, the need for specialized units has never been greater.

He said: "Certainly within the United States there are specialized units within the FBI. There's no question that threats in that area will continue to grow. It's a cat and mouse game, you have to stay one step ahead of your adversary."

Hartman added: "People on the good guys' side need to be armed with the right technologies and understanding of what the threats are."

The decision to merge the NHTCU with Soca was not a popular one and in August 2007 a House of Lords committee urged the government to do more to tackle e-crime or risk losing public confidence in the security of the Internet.

Businesses have also called for a dedicated police cyber crime unit.

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